Question:

Hello,

I attend a church of Christ, and my boyfriend of several years was baptized about a few years ago. We broke up last year for several months due to some differences but have since decided to be back together.

My boyfriend is in the military and during the time we were broken up, he found out he was going to be stationed in another country. During our time apart, he asked me to marry him, and I told him no because I felt we were too young. He then married another woman because he felt it would prevent him from having to go to the other country. Unfortunately, he had to go anyway.

The woman he married was a childhood friend of his who has children by another man. She has been homeless and has been abused. He married her and the military provided healthcare. With the extra money he got for being married, he helped her pay rent. They agreed to stay married for a year so that he could help her even though he ended up leaving the country. They are now in the process of getting a divorce. I’m just finding this out a year later because he feels bad and has since repented, although I’m not sure his repenting changes the situation much.

We had been discussing getting married, but I broke up with him after finding out he is married. It’s just been hard for me to get over this, and I just want to know if he can ever be married again. He says he doesn’t believe he was married in “holy matrimony” because he never loved her. He said he never made a promise to God to love this woman. They did it in court, and he hasn’t seen her since. He said he doesn’t “view” this as marriage, but I don’t think it matters what he views, only what God says.

She is currently living with her baby’s father trying to work things out with him and has obviously been intimate with her baby’s father because she just had a child with him. My now ex-boyfriend has also said that he has fornicated and repented during his marriage. This took place before he and I started dating again. My ex-boyfriend wants to know: Are all marriages spiritually binding? Does he have the right to remarry after getting an annulment because they haven’t consummated the marriage or have never lived together? Is he able to remarry even though he has fornicated in the time of his marriage and has repented? His “wife” does not care for him and is interested in pursuing another relationship regardless of whether they are married or not.

If he is able to remarry, I’m not sure I will ever be able to be with him after what he did, although I have forgiven him. However, I would feel more comfortable moving forward if I had some clarity on the situation.

Thank you for your time.

Answer:

It appears that your ex-boyfriend made a mess of his life because he did not consider his word to be binding on his actions. Recall that Jesus said that our statements are binding on us because Christians are supposed to be always truthful. "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil" (Matthew 5:37).  Instead, your ex-boyfriend is behaving like the Pharisees who claimed that only oaths made to God were binding, which Jesus said was false (Matthew 5:33-35).

Covenant vows are stronger promises because they are binding on the individuals for their lifetime. Your ex-boyfriend made a covenant vow with this other woman. It doesn't matter where he took the vow. Marriages in courthouses are no different than a marriage in a church. In fact, God never placed a requirement that marriages must take place in a church. Paul argues that marriage, regardless of where it takes place, is valid. If it wasn't, it would cause all sorts of problems with people who were married before becoming Christians. "But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy" (I Corinthians 7:12-15).

The fact that they never consummated the marriage also has no bearing in this problem because, while sex is allowed in marriage and expected to take place, it does not create the marriage.

Husbands are told to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25). You would expect a person entering into a lifelong commitment to another person to be in love with the one they are committing their lives to, but again a lack of love does not invalidate the covenant.

Notice that your ex-boyfriend supported his wife, told others he was married and has to get a divorce in order to end his marriage. Thus, he knows he was in a marriage regardless of his many excuses. He is trying for an annulment,  but that will also mean that he lied in order to manipulate others and it is now coming back to haunt him.

Technically, he can divorce his wife because she is living with another man. While he committed adultery too, he claims to have repented of his sins. My difficulty is that since he has done so much lying, I don't know if he is telling the truth. Assuming this happens to be true, I suppose he could marry again. However, I strongly advise you not to date or marry this man. He hasn't displayed a character that would make him a good husband.

Response:

Thank you so much for this. I really needed it.

I agree, it is hard to trust him now, and I don’t think we will continue our relationship. I just really needed clarity on the situation.

Thank you so much!

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